HP banks on next-generation blade architecture

BladeSystem c-Class box replaces p-Class, which will be supported through 2012

Hewlett-Packard (HP) unveiled its next-generation blade server architecture on Wednesday with new features designed to ease data center challenges such as systems management and power and cooling.

The new HP BladeSystem c-Class box replaces the company's existing BladeSystem p-Class, which HP said it will support through 2012. When compared to HP's rack-mounted systems, the new architecture enables significant acquisition, data-center facilities and installation savings, said HP executives at a launch event in Palo Alto, California, that was also webcast. According to its own internal tests, the new system showed up to a 46 percent cost saving over the rack-mounted systems.

The new 17-inch box, which supports server, storage and client blades, is the foundation of HP's new strategy to "blade everything," said Ann Livermore, executive vice president technology solutions group, for HP.

On the management side, HP has integrated its Insight Control Management software with the BladeSystem infrastructure to help administrators manage physical and virtual servers, storage, networking, and power and cooling through a single console. The software aims to simplify provisioning, recovery, patching and migration between physical and virtual servers.

HP built onto the box a new 2-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen designed to allow administrators to visually troubleshoot and diagnose system problems. For example, via the screen, administrators can view the status of I/O connections, power and cooling levels and system configurations. HP says the new screen was adapted from technology it uses on its printers to allow users to control peripheral settings and fix paper jams. It is calling this new functionality the Onboard Administrator.

No enterprise data-center technology launch these days is complete without mention of virtualization, and HP's new architecture also includes a new Virtual Connect module to allow administrators to set up connections to servers and virtual machines at the outset and then change connections without rewiring.

To help address power and cooling challenges, HP has added new technology to monitor air temperature, heat, and power usage at the component, system and rack levels as well as a new cooling fan it says reduces server airflow and energy consumption when compared with traditional fans.

The new BladeSystem is expected to ship in July. Pricing is not yet available.

At the launch event, HP executives took several swipes at rival IBM Corp.'s blade server offerings and said HP plans to offer IBM blade server customers financing, technology and services incentives to switch to HP's products. HP and IBM together own the majority of the blade-server market, which market research firm IDC expects to grow from about US$2 billion in 2005 to $10 billion by 2009.

IBM last week said that venture capital firm Walden International is investing up to $100 million over the next five years into the development of technologies for IBM's BladeCenter system, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

IBM earlier this year rolled out a new BladeCenter chassis and several blade servers, including a blade based on the Cell processor IBM is developing with Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. for Sony's PlayStation game console. IBM is targeting the Cell processor-based blade at computation-intensive workloads and broadband-media applications. The company believes it will have the greatest impact for applications that involve streaming data or image manipulation in such industries as medical imaging and life sciences.

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